Daily Life | IBD | Relationships
When Nick and I met, he was 19 and I was 22. I was about 7 months post-diagnosis with Crohn’s and still really struggling to come to terms with what that meant for me and my future. Three relationships had failed during that diagnosis period and I was terrified that I would have to face this chronically ill life alone. I felt like my body had betrayed me and it would be so obvious to anyone who looked at me for more than a second that I was irreparably broken. I hid a lot of my day-to-day surviving from people, particularly those whom I was interested in romantically. I was so sure that they’d see me injecting myself with the immunosuppressants that kept me alive or spending half my life in a bathroom and run for the hills. I’d collected multitudes of evidence to prove that to be true in my own mind and I wasn’t going to be moved from that easily.
I didn’t think I could handle any more rejection, so I decided to be brutally honest about what life with me would be like when it seemed Nick might be interested in me. I tried to scare him off with medical jargon and my very bleak outlook. Thankfully, that didn’t work, but it took a lot of insistence from Nick that he wasn’t going anywhere for me to get over myself and to allow him to really see me as I was. At that time, I was fiercely independent and didn’t want anyone to see me as weak or vulnerable. I had felt totally overwhelmed by those feelings when I was in hospital after surgery earlier that year. I couldn’t eat, shower, or walk without assistance for a while there, and I hated it. It made me feel childlike and pathetic when my mum had to do wound care for me because I couldn’t see or reach to do it myself. Looking back, it’s so clear that I was so stuck in my own world of pain that I didn’t appreciate how hard it must have been to try to care for someone who was resistant to help, grumpy all the time and on corticosteroids binge-eating journey. Sorry, Mum.
It can be really tough to admit to yourself and to others that you’re not as strong as you thought you were. Sometimes, you can’t do everything on your own, and asking for help really is the bravest thing you can possibly do in that situation. Getting past my own pride and reaching out for someone felt risky at the time, but I can’t tell you how much of a relief it was when there was a caring, loving person on the other end, ready to catch me. Being honest with Nick about how I was feeling, both physically and mentally, has allowed me to stop constantly putting on a healthy disguise. It gets exhausting playing to pretend all the time, so having someone to come home to who understands is just amazing. I don’t always have the energy to care for myself in all the ways I should, so the simple things like Nick cooking me dinner or making sure I’m going to the gym even when I don’t feel like it can make a huge difference. It’s also great to have encouragement on the days when I’m capable of doing more. I don’t need to be looked after all the time, but it’s so nice to have that care close by when I need it.
Caregiving isn’t always glamorous, but it’s always important. It gives someone the space to breathe; to put down the weight of chronic illness, just for a moment. For me, sometimes it’s Nick leaving the bathroom door open while I’m doing colonoscopy prep so he can bring me cup after cup of the awful stuff. It’s holding my hand when I’m nervous about a procedure. It’s stopping several times on the way home from our engagement dinner so I can be violently ill in a McDonald’s. It’s never allowing me to give up and reminding me of how much I have to live for on the worst pain days. In caring for and about me, Nick has given me another huge reason to keep fighting this disease. He’s made me believe in a future for myself that won’t be ruled by chronic illness. He’s the light at the end of the tunnel and that hope will get me through whatever Crohn’s is going to throw at me. I know I can rely on him to continue to love me in whatever state I’m in, no matter how grumpy I get or how much I resist the assistance. Admitting I needed help was a tough step, but I’m so glad I did it.